By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – The Sunshine State is taking steps to combat the “Biden border crisis,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.
In addition to several lawsuits Florida has filed against the Biden administration over illegal immigration, Gov. DeSantis says the state is actively working to protect Floridians and uphold the law.
He’s created a strike force, filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court, and signed a new bill into law banning state and local entities from transporting illegal immigrants from the southern border to Florida. He’s also vowed to use $12 million the state legislature allocated in the budget to transport illegal immigrants arriving in Florida from the southern border north to President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware and to other states.
“Illegal aliens are being smuggled across the border in record numbers, which the reckless policies of the Biden administration facilitate,” Gov. DeSantis said. As a result, Florida is taking “additional action to protect our state from the effects of what is a full-fledged border crisis.”
The strike force, comprised of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, and sheriffs, is working to conduct operations to interdict human smuggling and human trafficking, drug smuggling and drug trafficking, and to seize illegal weapons, including criminal activity orchestrated by cartel operatives and gang members.
In three days recently, task force members in Northwest Florida “interdicted five illegal aliens from Honduras and two from El Salvador who were arrested and charged with human smuggling or solicitation to commit human smuggling,” the governor said. The strike force has confiscated nearly four grams of fentanyl, enough to kill nearly 2,000 Floridians.
The strike force “is dedicated to interdicting illegal activity in the state of Florida and working with the state attorneys to aggressively prosecute human smugglers and other criminals to the fullest extent of the law,” Public Safety Czar Larry Keefe said.
The Biden administration says the southern border is not open and its immigration policies are more humane than former President Donald Trump’s. But critics say the policies are hurting American citizens.
“The effects of illegal immigration on our state present very real costs to our citizens and communities,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Acting Commissioner Mark Glass said. “FDLE’s collaboration with our law enforcement partners throughout the state and ‘boots-on-the-ground’ police work proves effective at keeping all of us safer, as seen with this operation today.”
Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol, said citizens and visitors coming to Florida can be assured that they “can rest easy knowing that our law enforcement officers have their back, and the governor has ours.”
Gov. DeSantis also filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury to examine international human smuggling networks “that bring aliens to the southern border, and ultimately to Florida.”
The grand jury would be tasked with identifying and investigating “persons and international human smuggling networks that move illegal aliens, particularly children, across the southwest border to more desirable states such as Florida,” according to the 12-page petition. The grand jury would examine the impact of these networks and how they are violating state laws, as well as investigate local governments that are aiding human smuggling activity and violating state law that requires them to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “We cannot turn a blind eye to traffickers and smugglers exploiting the border crisis to subject children to extremely dangerous conditions.” She’s said she’s hopeful that her office’s role in impaneling the grand jury and its overall efforts would “uncover the facts surrounding those in Florida who may be involved.”
Gov. DeSantis filed the petition on June 17, the same day he signed a bill into law banning state and local governments from contracting with carriers transporting illegal immigrants from the southern border to Florida. The law goes into effect in October.
The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Aaron Bean, said the new law will “ensure that Floridians’ tax dollars do not go to the companies helping the federal government smuggle illegal aliens into our country.”
State Rep. John Snyder said, “Florida is standing up for the rule of law. By blocking midnight flights of unauthorized aliens and requiring our County Sheriffs to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, SB 1808 shows that as the Biden administration continues to turn a blind eye, Florida will do everything within our constitutional power to protect our people.”